The best ways to deal with quarantine-induced loneliness

We've heard health experts talk about washing our hands often for at least 20 seconds, keeping a healthy social distance, and using bleach and other household cleaners to clean and disinfect our homes. What we haven't been hearing about too much — but really should be — is the effect social distancing and the anxiety over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is having on our mental health.

People reports that Google Trends is showing an uptick in searches for the word "loneliness" — and today's search levels for the word are their highest since Google started keeping search data in 2004. And while it may be good for our physical wellbeing, social distancing hasn't been so great for our mental health. It doesn't have to be that way, though. As psychiatrist Nikole Benders-Hadi tells Slate, "Distancing is not the same as isolation." 

If you are stuck at home, now could be the time to reach out to folks you've been meaning to get back in touch with (social media does have its benefits!), possibly even set up social video conferencing sessions with friends and family. We're pretty lucky — today's technology allows us to get back in touch and stay in touch virtually if we allow ourselves to do it.

News about COVID-19 is driving up anxiety levels

Experts aren't just saying much about the impact of social distancing, they're also not really talking about how endless talk about COVID-19 is driving up anxiety levels. Clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland tells People, "Situations with high levels of uncertainty are a breeding ground for excessive worry and anxiety. The coronavirus outbreak is particularly challenging because it has layers of uncertainty." 

To this end, it is important to stay informed about the outbreak, but not to immerse yourself in information. Benders-Hadi tells Slate that when people "stay glued to coverage, panic symptoms can get a lot worse," so it may be smart to limit the amount of time you spend talking about the virus, carve out chunks of the day where don't spend looking at the news, and meditating or exercising to keep your eyes and mind off the headlines.

Some of the most heartwarming scenes coming out of Europe amid the grim news involve impromptu concerts in Italy (via YouTube) as well as enthusiastic applause across Madrid for healthcare workers in Spain (via YouTube). The coronavirus pandemic is a trying time for all of us, but we're also seeing humanity at its finest and most resilient because of it.